Sunday, August 12, 2018

The Ultimate Victorian Garden: Sarah Eva Howe Recalls the Trees, Vines, and Flowers at Her Childhood Home in 1891

Over the past seven posts, we've strolled with Sarah Eva Howe through Carrollton, Kentucky of the 1890s, almost rebuilding the missing 1890 U.S. Census while learning about her neighborhood and neighbors. In this post and the next, we tour the Sarah's family home at 4th and High (now Highland), next to the Methodist church. Her parents moved into that house when returning to Carrollton from Cincinnati, where Sarah was born and where the family lived for a while.

Columbine, popular in Victorian gardens
Today's virtual stroll through the Howe's  garden provides a perfect example of Victorian-era residential landscaping. Sarah's details about the lilacs, the columbine, the snapdragons, and other plants could be a guide to creating today's Victorian-style gardens.

As always, I use ellipses to indicate missing or omitted words and brackets to indicate my own clarifications. For you gardeners, I've included links to websites about the plants Sarah describes.

In the preceding books, I have told of our life in Cincinnati . . . and described Carrollton as it was when we arrived, so now I can take up the Reminiscences where I left off and begin with the fall of 1891, when we really became Carrollton citizens and moved to the low brick house at the corner of 4th and High Streets — in our own home at last and one Papa was never to leave in his lifetime. Of course all was excitement to me at the thought of moving and of seeing the furniture we had had stored brought out and placed in the square, rambling, low-ceiling rooms of the 75-year-old house in whose parlor, it was told us, Mrs. Benjamin Harrison had attended school as a girl. [Note: I have found no confirmation that Caroline Lavinia Scott (later Harrison) attended school in Carrollton. I welcome additional information.]

The yard was so beautiful too, with trees and flowers. Mr. And Mrs. Fishback were flower lovers and had planted a number of flower beds; each was surrounded by a wooden contraption, a little fence, painted dark red; they had been in place a long time and were rotting next to the ground, so it didn’t take Papa long to pull them all out and make the flower beds more natural looking. 

The only fruit tree of any consequence was a big, gnarled crabapple tree on the side of the yard next to the church; . . . [also] and a healthy grape arbor which to
Sarah drew this plat of her childhood home as she recalled it in the mid-1940s.
Mama’s disappointment had catawba, or red, grapes — she being a city girl had always eaten Concords, mostly from a basket. For shrubs we had a wealth of unpruned, tangled syringa, which to my childish delight formed a natural green grotto close to the churchyard fence. Then there was a Rose of Sharon bush, and most lovely of all (in poor condition, tho, because of not being trimmed) a coral honeysuckle in a sort of wooden frame. And under the grape arbor were quantities of orange-colored July lilies.

There were some old rose bushes, but the prize one was at the corner of the yard — the 4th & High corner — and it had deep red, lovely roses all through the summer. Up against the house on the 4th St. or chimney side of the big front room (which stood by itself on the left side of the double wooden front door) was a yellow rose bush, which bloomed just in May and June, whose fragrance Leonora and I can remember yet — not single roses, nor really very full, but a lovely color. 

In the corner where the big room joined the rest of the house at the back was a very large single or nearly single “common” red-pink rose bush, very profuse in its spring bloom but soon over. Over the door which led from the front room to the side brick path (which went from the back door to the front, past the cistern, and clear around the big room to the front door) was an arbor covered with a huge honeysuckle vine, which I always think of when I hear “the woodbine whose fragrance shall cheer me no more.” For indeed the morn could be “gazed on” from that door, and it was an unforgettable sight. 
Part of the previous paragraph, in Sarah's handwriting
From the big front doors a sloping brick path led to very old (partly cracked) front steps and a big iron gate which shut with a satisfactory clang (unless you had your fingers in it as Leonora did once). On each side of this walk, semi-wild flowers sprang from narrow beds — columbine, verbenas, mostly a purplish crimson — they were so prolific they even spread at times across the brick walk — and a lovely slender sweetbrier rosebush, you hardly ever see them now, with tiny flowers like apple blossoms (being of course of the same family) and leaves that were more fragrant than the flowers. Violets grew in clumps all over the yard, in some places very large, but wild ones still; on the sunny, or southwest side was a broken down violet bed for sweet violets, which Mama hastened to have built back into shape and covered with a “sash,” and the plants once started there gave us sweet violets for at least four years of our stay there.

In the middle of the back yard was “the pit,” a luxury not at all uncommon in self-respecting homes (where there was of course no central heating), [for] plants and a great many house plants. These large trenches, built up with wood and fitted with shelf steps, could accommodate the largest oleander trees at the bottom, and tiny begonias at the top. On a pulley, the large glass sashes were opened and shut and over these were heavy wooden doors also on pulleys. As far as I ever heard, nothing was ever known to freeze in them.

When Leonora remembers the house, the glory of the place was the lilac bushes — but when we went there, I believe there was just one clump of rather aged bushes by the side
Lilacs similar to Sarah's description of those in the Howe's yard
of the house by the cellar door; almost all of the later bushes came from the shoots growing on the ground around this big old one. They (the flowers) were of a very light purple, and an indescribable fragrance. But I think it was probably 1892 before Papa and Mama began to make this yard a really notable garden and to begin accumulating lovely large plants with which the “pit” could be fitted in winter. In a bed in the back yard (on the side of the crabapple tree), in a too-shady place, were some spindling plants that Mama pulled up. She said those common old zinnias I don’t want them in my yard! It was many years and many transformations later before she changed her mind. There were cox combs in the big square bed in the front yard, red geraniums and loveliest of all, sweet Williams and a few snapdragons. But as the Fishbacks knew they were moving, they neglected the flowers in the summer, so when we moved in (on Sept. 8th), the yard was rather sad looking.

The most prominent features of the place I have left till last: two enormous cedar trees, very dark & gloomy looking, on each side of the front walk, with limbs growing clear down to the ground. Also in the front yard next to the courtyard fence was a locust tree — either the same one or its descendant was the one who received into its arms the top of the steeple when it was blown off in 1943. This locust, temperamental in the extreme, alternately leaving great bunches of fragrant blossoms in locust winter and littering up the yard with its early shedding leaves, and being either struck by lightning or having its limbs torn off in high winds, was continually in our conversation. We were always going to cut it down but never did. 

The churchyard fence, small enough to be climbed easily where it ran into our iron one, became higher as it ran back in the yard and on down the garden hill. Generally meticulously whitewashed by some . . . servitor, it was no whiter than the top of Grandpa Howe’s [word undecipherable; probably referring to a structure on her grandfather's lot which was in the next block], which was plainly visible above it from our side in the yard (we could see more of them from the bedroom window).


In the next post, we'll go inside this house and get a sense of the 1890s life of the Howes and our other town-dwelling ancestors.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Part 7: Sarah Eva Howe's Stroll Through 1890s Carrollton — Friends Who Lived in the Area of the County Courthouse

In this final chapter in the series, Sarah Eva Howe continues to recall her neighbors in the area bounded by Main, High (now Highland), Fourth, and Sixth.

As before, she is addressing her memoir to her daughter, Mary Alice Salyers Hays. Her references to "Dad" mean Mary Alice's father, William Levi Salyers. "Papa" is Sarah's own father, Robert James Howe. I will occasionally omit some  descriptions and indicate each omission with an ellipsis. If you want the omitted information, please email me at the address included under the "About" tab. You can follow Sarah's street references using a modern map of Carrollton or the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps of Carrollton in 1898.

As always, my own comments are in brackets. All parentheses are Sarah's own. Please remember that Sarah is writing in the early 1940s, and her dates and places may not always precisely match history.

Miss Kate and Miss Jinny[?] Eblen lived in the little double house next to the church, and they owned it and rented out the other side. When we came there, the brother of Miss Kate and his family lived there — he had two sons, Frank and Homer (and Homer was in my room at school), but not long after that several other families in succession lived in it — the Staples family, I believe, were next (you remember our Mary Hill married Lyter Staples — “Tuff” we called him? He worked for Dad and thus met Mary. 
Carroll County Courthouse circa 1890. Photo from Carroll County by Phyllis Codling McLaughlin (Arcadia Publishing, 2012); courtesy Darrell Maines.
 The Court House, of course, took up the whole square from Court to Fifth; but just down on Court lived the Logeman family (whose mother was a Huhn, “Augie’s” daughter, of whom more later) and farther down the street was the engine house and near it was the blacksmith shop of the Logan brothers. (The city hall was built later on, during the nineties, also the band stand in the courthouse square, when “Prof. Gentry” organized a town band and gave concerts on summer nights (about ’92 or ’93).

On the other side of High Street between 4th and 5th, as I said, was a row of good brick houses. On the corner stood the McCann house; old Mr. Allen McCann, his wife and his sister (or sister-in-law) and a niece lived there. Mr. Baker’s fine new house came next; he had two children (had lost one boy), Rose and Pryor (who was about Dad’s age).

Next to this was the house where Mr. Will Winslow and his wife Kate, who was a Fayette County lady, lived; however, they left Carrollton about ’92, and Dr. Hiner and his family lived there for several years, not wanting to go to the rather dilapidated and far-out parsonage (tho they were there for a short while) on 7th Street. After they left, the Orr family came down from Ghent and settled there, living there for many years, either they or Mrs. Lee’s family (Mrs. Ora’s daughter).

Next lived the Glaubers – Mr. John and his mother and his two brothers, Fred and Henry, and his sister Bertha. (It was from them in ’93 that I got my longed-for first dig, Solon.)

I think the Sanders family was already living in the “Holmes” house. Next, Mrs. O’Donnell (for she had remarried) and the three daughters, Betty, Sallie and Lou (who was there about ’93). No, of course not! They didn’t move there till after the death of Dr. Meade; he was living there then. (I must find out where the Sanders family did live; Charlie K. will know.) Dr. Prentice Meade (for whom all the Prentices in the county, black and white, were named) was a very fine doctor, but when we came there he was at the end of his life — in fact, I believe he died about 1891, and a relative, Dr. Lyter Conn, took his practice but was never a really trusted doctor to the “best people,” tho many Lyters were named for him, including, I think, Lyter Donaldson! (He was someway kin to them, too, I believe. I must find out this connection.) Anyway, I don’t believe the Sanders family moved there till at least ’93 or ’94, but Dr. Homes married Bettie Sanders, and they were all living there when Philip was born in the summer of 1896.

On the corner of 5th & High lived, of course, the Donaldson family. I don’t know whether he was called “Judge” then or not. (His wife was Sue Giltner, aunt of Mr. Mike Giltner and Aunt Sue Salyers) and there were three boys and a girl, Velma. Lyter was born the year we came there.)

I am going to stop this installment of the history at the corner, before we cross to the Winslow house – because there will be so much to say about that! However, I am going to go back a square and tell of a few families who lived on 4th Street below the Baptist Church on both sides. Nearest to the Kellar house lived Mrs. Losey and her mother — Mr. Losey with Mrs. Losey, and Mrs. Winter and her little girl Malina, with Mrs. Williams, Mrs. Losey’s mother – it was a double house. Mr. Losey was the chief salesman of the men’s side of the store [Howe Brothers] and was bookkeeper as well in his “spare time.” Mrs. Losey was a fashionable dressmaker and had a little building for her shop erected at the side of the “old store.” They were all from Mississippi and had accents you could cut with a knife! It seems to me the Moormans[?] lived down there on that side (Miss Mary’s people) for a long time, and at the corner was a big livery stable. I know I should remember someone else down there, and probably will later.

On the other side, from the church on, there was built a small house used as the Baptist parsonage; below that lived the Welch family (one of the girls married John Clahue[?] and one [married] Henry, his brother); and in an identical house next to it lived Mike Grasmick and his wife. She was a fair-haired, retiring sort of person. . . . 

Also in one of the little houses lived Mr. & Mrs. Siersdorfer and her daughter Mary . . .    They were very intelligent. They looked like Dutch people. The father was a cousin of the “show people” whose shop was on Main at Court.
Somewhere along there lived the Lees, of which George, the father, was editor of the News, and Somers, the oldest boy, was Dad’s friend.
Louis M. and Margaret (Kurre) Siersdorfer. They married 7 June 1910, so that doesn't fit with Sarah's memory of the Siersdorfer family living "in one of the little houses" in the 1890s. In the 1900 U.S. Census, a Louis Siersdorfer is living with his mother and his brother John in a house between the Frammes and the Grobmyers and not far from the Donaldsons. Another household of Mrs. G. Siersdorfer and daughter Mary were neighbors of Mr. and Mrs. Mike Grasmick, the family Sarah mentioned. A genealogical mystery for another day. Photo from Carroll County by Phyllis Codling McLaughlin (Arcadia Publishing, 2012); courtesy Del Brophy.
So abruptly ends the pages of Sarah's neighborhood recollections. If you found your ancestors in one of the seven posts in this series, I'm glad. If your family was in Carrollton but is not accounted for in this series, please remember that Sarah was writing her memories of 50 years before. She no doubt forgot some of her neighbors of the 1890s and their precise locations.

How agonizing not to have the 1890 U.S. Census to verify or correct Sarah's recollections. I used the 1880 and the 1900 to check names and relationships, but the 1890 Census would have been a huge help.

Summer is family reunion time, and I'll be taking a little break to attend one. What comes next in the blog? Maybe we'll pick up where we left off, with the Howe-Salyers family living in Lexington in the early 1930s. However, there's a thick stack of pages about Sarah's childhood that I haven't read yet! If you have a preference, reading about the 1890s or the 1930s, please let me know.  


Sunday, July 22, 2018

Part 6: Sarah Eva Howe's Stroll Through 1890s Carrollton – in Her Own Neighborhood, Close to the Methodist and Baptist Churches

In the previous post, we stood at Third and High, where the Haffords and the Websters lived. Today, we continue down Third Street and then over to Fourth. You can follow Sarah using a modern map of Carrollton or the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps of Carrollton in 1898. As always, my own comments are in brackets. All parentheses are Sarah's own.

Please remember that Sarah is writing in the early 1940s, and her memories of dates and places may not always precisely match history.

Down on Third Street, next to Mrs. Webster’s, lived the Beelers, Irish as the Isle itself and good Catholics. Miss Mary still lives there in the same house, I believe; I saw her not long ago. I believe her brother John is still living there too. They had a cow, and we sometimes used to get milk or cream from them. I am not sure the DeMints lived next door then or moved in afterwards in a small frame house sort of “on stilts.” Of course, the Howe home occupied the half square opposite, stretching halfway from High to Main and halfway from Third to Fourth, or to the alley, before you came to the church. I am not going to describe the place here but will do so when telling how it unfolded on my dazzled sight when we took up our residence in it.

At one side of it on Third was the big brick house (with nothing but a large bare room on the lower floor, which was afterwards the home of the famous Hutchinson family, colored, all of whom worked for our family in some capacity) belonging to the Masonic Lodge, where the entire upper floor was given over to Lodge doings. I went up there just once, I forget on what errand or pretext, but as I was as, as always, looking for animals I was disappointed in not finding any goat, or signs of one, as I had been led to expect. Instead, a lot of ashes and dust and stuffy looking costumes were all that could be seen on a cursory inspection.

Next to this brick building was the Harrison home, Mr. & Mrs. Harrison, older people lived there, and Maggie Branham and her mother, who was the Harrison’s daughter. Maggie’s mother was DIVORCED from her husband, someone said in a whisper, and he had married again and lived on Main Street with his new wife, and kept Maggie’s brother Harry, while her mother took her. The father’s name was Ophalius Branham, yes, it was indeed -- really grounds for divorce in itself, and he was generally called by it without much shortening, except by some of the men. There was a Harrison boy who had been Papa’s [Sarah's father Robert James Howe] friend, but he died -- I am of the faint idea that it was he who owned the little volumes of poetry we gave Wally. Theodore, I believe his name was. Maggie was about my age, Harry a little older, thinking of it, I imagine maybe he was named Harrison, Harry for short.

The home of Sarah's grandparents, John Howe and his second wife Jane Hopkins Bell Howe. Photo and caption from Carroll County by Phyllis Codling McLaughlin (Arcadia Publishing, 2012)
Gracefully leaping over Howe’s yard, or going in at the “churchyard gate” and under the summer kitchen porch and up the diagonal path by the ice house out by the side gate on the way to the church, and passing on High Street the house temporarily the home of the Haffords, we could see two houses on the corner of 4th and High, but only one had its front gate on High Street, a long low red house with a high wall terracing its yard, topped with an iron fence, and a large cedar tree on each side [of] the front walk. This was next to the Methodist Church and with it, the only occupant of the whole square on that side. Mr. & Mrs. Fishback lived there (of them more later on), (for they were the ones who moved out when we moved in). The house opposite us, fronting on 4th St., was the home of a Swiss-German couple Jacob Keller and his wife Mary, and his sister Lizzie, a tiny squat picture book person who could have stepped out of an Alps prospectus -- as indeed so could Jake and his wife. They had lived farther out in town, near the cemetery and near the Scheiffelbeins, who I suppose were Swiss, too -- anyway, Papa and Uncle Joe [Sarah's paternal uncle William F. Howe] used to play with the boys of the family right where both are now buried (as Uncle Joe said with real pleasure when we bought Papa’s lot), before that was part of the cemetery. [Note: It's my understanding that William F. Howe, his wife Louisiana Winslow Howe, and their unmarried daughters Lillie and Jenn lived in what became known as the Winslow-Howe Homestead on Fifth near High (now Highland). He bought the house in the late 1870s.]

Jake’s [first?] wife died, and finally he induced Mary to come and keep house for him. (I suppose Lizzie hadn’t come to town then.) [Mary] trial marriaged him for a week or a month, I forgot which, then they invited the wedding guests (of whom Miss Hallie Masterson’s mother (and Miss Hallie) were counted, and I imagine perhaps the other neighbors (they didn’t know the Howes yet, as [the Keller's] lived so far out at that time), and Mary got the wedding supper, served the guests, cleaned up, then took off her apron and came in and was married (by a preacher, not a priest, for she, tho a Catholic, had neglected her connections and Jake was a rigid Protestant). She was a good neighbor and friend to my own Grandma Howe, living there even before Aunt Lizzie [Sarah's paternal aunt Elizabeth M. Howe, who died in 1869] died.

Of course the Baptist Church was across from Mrs. Keller’s, with doors opening on High St. In the basement of this church (before it was rebuilt of course) was the Academy or private school which the Howe children, the Winslows, and Conns and others attended, and where I suppose Professor Joyeaux (who fell in love with Papa’s sister Lizzie), the French writing teacher, plied his trade. I saw a letter from him to Papa written after Aunt Lizzie died, in violet ink, that was really a beautiful thing, so exquisitely written, as became a teacher of the graphic arts.

Now on the side of the street we afterwards lived on, across from “our house,” were good looking brick buildings clear up the street to 5th; while on the other side, from 4th (after the church) to the corner were almost tumble-down little lonely frame houses, flush with the street, with a deep basement, dark and damp looking, beneath them, and long, rickety steps down -- a small town is like that. In all my experience, those houses were never painted, nor ever occupied, of course, by “prosperity.” 

In the farthest house from the church lived a Catholic family, the Niemillers, a big family, too, in a small house, but they spread out some, for they were industrious and smart and soon had good jobs. Theodore, the oldest, as I said, drove the bus & horses back & forth from Worthville; it was a big affair, almost like a stagecoach, and very cold in winter when they put straw over the floor. 
The "bus" of that day probably looked much like this one, which was refurbished for use in the 1940s. (Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Photograph Collection, Library of Congress)
The oldest girl married one of the Grobmeyer boys (not Ed or Cass’s family, but another cousin) and was the mother of Harold Tambrink’s wife, and “Bill” Grobmeier, remember him? Rebecca or “Becky” was a fine cook and housekeeper and worked for Mrs. Winslow for years from the time she was a little girl. She finally married Casper Feller, and they lived on 5th Street, you remember, next to “Grocery Ed Hill,” when we lived out there. One of the boys, Albert, married Maggie Donnelly, and Amelia, “Melie” as we called her, married and went to Cincinnati to live. I think her name is now “Majolinsky.” But they all grew up there on High Street. 

************************ Coming next week: The final part of this series ************************